A Science-Organized Community: Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (3)

By: Dr. Ricky Rood , 9:18 PM GMT on June 21, 2011

A Science-Organized Community: Organizing U.S. Climate Modeling (3)

In the previous entry I set out the need of a scientific organization; that is, an organization that is designed and run to honor the tenets of the scientific method. This stands in contrast to, say, a laboratory or a center that is populated by scientists carrying out a multitude of projects, each following the scientific method. One motivation for the scientific organization is the steady stream of reports from the past two decades calling for better integration of U.S. climate activities to provide predictions to meet societal needs. At the foundation of my argument is that the way we teach, fund and reward scientific investigation has been, traditionally, fragmenting. Without addressing this underlying fragmentation, there are high barriers to achieving the needed integration. (see, Something New in the Past Decade?, The Scientific Organization, High-end Climate Science).

What does it take for an organization to adhere to the scientific method? Ultimately, I will arrive at the conclusion that it takes a diligence of management and governance, but for this entry I will continue to focus on the elements of the scientific method, and specifically the development of strategies to evaluate and validate collected, rather than individual, results.

In May I attended a seminar by David Stainforth. Stainforth is one of the principles in the community project climateprediction.net. From their website, “Climateprediction.net is a distributed computing project to produce predictions of the Earth's climate up to 2100 and to test the accuracy of climate models.” In this project people download a climate model and run the model on their personal computers, then the results are communicated back to data center where they are analyzed in concert with results from many other people.

This is one example of community science or citizen science. Other citizen science programs are Project Budburst and the Globe Program. There are a number of reasons for projects like this. One of the reasons is to extend the reach of observations. In Project Budburst people across the U.S. observe the onset of spring as indicated by different plants – when do leaves and blossoms emerge? A scientific motivation for doing this is to increase the number observations to try to assure that the Earth's variability is adequately observed – to develop statistical significance. In these citizen science programs people are taught how to observe - a protocol is developed.

Education – that is another goal of these citizen science activities, education about the scientific method. In order to follow the scientific process, we need to know the characteristics of the observations. If, as in Project Budburst, we are looking for the onset of leafing, then we need to make sure that the tree is not sitting next to a warm building or in the building’s atrium. Perhaps, there is a requirement of a measurement, for example, that the buds on a particular type of tree have expanded to a certain size or burst in some discernible way. Quantitative measurement and adherence of practices of measurement are at the foundation of developing a controlled experiment. A controlled experiment is one where we try to investigate only one thing at a time; this is a difficult task in climate science. If we are not careful about our observations and the design of our experiments, then it is difficult, perhaps impossible, to evaluate our hypotheses and arrive at conclusions. And the ability to test hypotheses is fundamental to the scientific method. Design, observations, hypothesis, evaluation, validation – in a scientific organization these things need to be done by the organization, not each individual.

Let’s return to climateprediction.net. A major goal is to obtain a lot of simulations from climate models to examine the range of variability that we might expect in 2100. The strategy is to place relatively simple models in the hands of a whole lot of people. With this strategy it is possible to do many more experiments than say one scientist or even a small team of scientists can do. Many 100,000s of simulations have been completed.

One of the many challenges faced in the model-based experiments is how to manage the model simulations to provide controlled experiments. If you think about a climate model as a whole, then there are a number of things that can be changed. We can change something “inside” of the model, for example, we can change how rough we estimate the Earth’s surface to be – maybe grassland versus forest. We can change something “outside” of the model - the energy balance, perhaps, some estimate of how the Sun varies or how carbon dioxide will change. And, still “outside” the model, we can change the details of what the climate looks like when the model simulation is started – do we start it with January 2003 data or July 2007? When you download a model from climateprediction.net, it has a unique set of these parameters. If you do a second experiment, this will also have a unique set of parameters. Managing these model configurations and documenting this information allows, well, 100000s of simulations to be run, with a systematic exploration of model variability. Experiment strategy is explained here.

What impressed me about climateprediction.net is the ability to design and execute a volunteer organization that allows rigorous investigation with of a group of thousands of people on thousands of different computers distributed all over the globe. Protocols have been set up to verify that the results are what they should be; there is confidence in the accuracy of the information collected. Here is an example where scientists are able to define an organization where the scientific method permeates the organization. Is this proof that a formalized scientific organization is possible? What are the attributes that contribute to the success of a project like climateprediction.net? Are they relevant to a U.S. climate laboratory?

Bringing this back to the scale of U.S. climate activities – in 2008 there was a Policy Forum in Science Magazine by Mark Schaefer, Jim Baker and a distinguished number of co-authors. All of these co-authors had worked at high levels in the government, and they all struggled with the desire and need to integrate U.S. climate activities. Based on their experience they posed an Earth System Science Agency made from a combined USGS and NOAA. In their article they pointed out: “The synergies among our research and monitoring programs, both space- and ground-based, are not being exploited effectively because they are not planned and implemented in an integrated fashion. Our problems include inadequate organizational structure, ineffective interagency collaboration, declines in funding, and blurred authority for program planning and implementation.” Planning and implementation in an integrated fashion, I will add – consistent with the scientific method – that is what is needed for a successful scientific investigation by an individual; it is needed to make climateprediction.net substantive; it is needed for any climate organization that is expected, as a whole, to provide integrated climate information.


Figure 1: Location of participants in climateprediction.net. From the BBC, a sponsor of the experiment.

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Quoting Neapolitan:

Oh, not; not this piece of denialist propaganda again. Let's see the fair and balanced perspective of the two "experts" presented in the video:

--David Legates: forced to stop using his title as "state climatologist" in public statements related to climate change; makes a healthy adjunct living speaking before and on behalf of various ExxonMobil-funded groups.

--Willie Soon: a Big Energy-funded denialist whose stated position that the earth is warming solely because of solar irradiance has been debunked countless times.

But I guess it's small wonder this piece keeps popping up again and again and again; contarians really have little else to support their positions.

Hummm,,you must have missed the post on the cosmic ray/sun thing with the peer reviewed paper. Those cloud thingy's do make a bigger difference than any of those of which you speak of , no?

You are a very dedicated person, and I think that is a great virtue. That my friend is truly a compliment!

for you~

Member Since: June 12, 2005 Posts: 6 Comments: 8217
Quoting RustyShackleford:

Rusty, I started watching the video and will watch it in its entirety later. You must ask yourself one basic question that the beginning of this movie seems to be focused on. Is CO2 a greenhouse gas? Should CO2 be a greenhouse gas, then is it a powerful enough greenhouse gas to start a feedback cycle that will warm the Earth? I know the answer to my first question and I am trying to discover the answer to my second question. Just my knowing the first answer is enough for me to call the movie a sham, at least during the first part of the movie. I will watch and it all and, if you wish, give you my opinions based on what the film says. Since I am not a scientist, I can only give you my opinion. I will relay what facts I do know and leave the speculations to those that are more comfortable offering their speculations and with nothing to back it up with other than a hunch or a gut instinct.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RustyShackleford:

Just making sure you knew.

I'm surprised you apologized as you don't get that much on this site.

I've been ignored because I told somebody to say that they were sorry and misread.

Some respect given to you there sir.

You, sir deserved that respect. I do not have any issues with showing respect where it is deserved to be shown. The fault laid with me and not with you. I needed to acknowledge that to you. You deserved that.

Good manners and respect should never be ignored. Should this have happened to you in the past, then the weakness was not with you but, with those that showed no manners and lack of respect. Once again, you have proven yourself worthy of my respect.
Member Since: Posts: Comments:
Quoting RustyShackleford:
Government control is also another reason.


You have google.

I don't know if you directed this at me but, yes, I do know what NWO is. The first I heard of this was when Bush Sr. was leaving office and he claimed that there is a new world order coming.

Brought to you by the powers of Google:

Government control is not always a bad thing, Rusty. Would you prefer that Walgreens replace the FDA? Perhaps a California based company governing the environmental laws in Michigan or Illinois?
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Quoting RustyShackleford:
I stopped reading with I believe 2 paragraphs to go to say this.

I didn't say you were dirty did I?

I said the IPCC is... Reread please.

You are correct, sir. I did misread what you said. I do apologize to you for this. I will place more effort on not making a similar mistake, in the future. I thank you for pointing this out to me.
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Quoting RMuller:

It's almost impossible to disprove a negative. You can go to many sites where they show the bias global warming proponents have. The US government, for instance, is stocked with people using fraudulent science to "prove" AGW. Their salaries depend on it. For God's sake, why does anyone have to PROVE it to you? Unless you are internet-challenged, there is a plethora of info on the net. Only those with a preconceived bias or who are liberal (socialist) beyond belief can actually believe in this AGW hoax. Have you been drinking the AGW Kool-Aid?

Where did I ask him to disprove a negative? I asked him to support his case. Do you claim that is case is a negative and therefore is unsupportable? Do you not think it is best for him to decide this for himself? Why does anyone have to PROVE it to me?????? WOW! What a question. Do you suggest that I just drink the kool-aid, anyone's kool-aid, and not question why I should drink the kool-aid?

I am not from the "Show me " state, but it is good practice to have. Trust but, verify.

You have a preconceived bias that I am a liberal. Who's kool-aid have you been drinking? I have already stated that I am probably much more a fiscal conservative than you or the vast majority of Republicans. Conservatives are willing to make cuts in corporate welfare as well social welfare. This is something a Republican could never stomach, for it goes against their very fiber to not give tax dollars to corporations. Tax breaks to corporations that are sitting on record amounts of cash. How can a fiscal conservative respect that? Subsidies given to corporations that are making record profits. How does a fiscal conservative justify that? You call me a liberal. Can you stomach a conservative approach to cutting all welfare, including corporate? Do you want to grow this economy again? Give the breaks to the small, local businesses that are the backbone of our economy. Quit giving it corporations that will only spend the vast majority of it in overseas investments and therefore be of little no benefit to our economy here. Are you conservative enough to do this or are you more liberal than I?

Why do some people believe that by placing labels on others that they have somehow won the debate? I called him a commie lib so I win! Well I called him a repuke so I musta won! Aren't you afraid that one day someone is going to tell your mommy that you are calling people names? Have you not emotionally matured beyond this? I am asking, not stating.
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Quoting RustyShackleford:

your answers did nothing but create 100's of more questions.

I don't think you even answered one question just attacked the question and the asker.

You say you aren't on any sides but attacking is clearly not the side I'm on.

Interesting. In my post #106, in response to spathy, I told him I agreed with him that cap and trade will not work and I answered all of his questions. There were many cases where I answered beyond the scope of the question and provided more details than were really asked for.

Yes, I did raise many more questions. My questions were directly linked to his questions. He did not ask why clouds form and I asked when is he going to get a new car. I asked questions that were in direct relationship to his questions. When he asks where is the money going to come from and I tell him that I do not know, is it also not reasonable for me to ask where the money will come from to fund an ever change environment that we must adjust to? Am I only allowed to answer the questions and to post none of my own?

In my post# 107, to rmuller, he only asked one question. Everything else he said was statements. How do you answer statements? You ask questions.
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Quoting RustyShackleford:

177 court judge.

Again innocent until proven guilty it is not my case to make.

You present a case but, you feel no obligation to make your case? You cast forth your comments but have no connection to your comments? How convenient, for you.
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Quoting RustyShackleford:

Carbon Credits...

People stand to make millions off of something that will ruin the job market and the lives of millions...

The world isn't warming this year...

Carbon Credits...

They have not come up with a conclusion that this is man made...

The IPCC in one of their opening statements says it is mans fault

Mission statement from them:

"The role of the IPCC is to assess on a comprehensive, objective, open and transparent basis the scientific, technical and socio-economic information relevant to understanding the scientific basis of risk of human-induced climate change"

Wait back that up...

human-induced climate change...

Hold on a second...

Aren't you supposed to find out if this is man made not already that the preconceived thought in your head it is?

Seems a bit dirty....

Carbon credits – neither proves nor disproves AGW. This does not help me to determine if AGW is real or a sham.

People stand to make millions no matter which way AGW is decided. Again, this neither proves nor disproves AGW. This does not help me to determine if AGW is real or a sham.

Are you able to show the IPCC is wrong in their assessment? AGW is, after all, man caused, by definition. Will you supply me with a link that quotes the IPCC stating that GW is being caused solely by man? They may have done so but, with what I have read, the IPCC only states that the extent of the current warming cannot be fully accounted for, until you factor in the human element. This is a long distance from saying that man is the sole cause of GW.

What have I said that indicates that I have preconceived thought on GW or AGW? Questioning you is to learn why you believe you are correct in your assessments concerning GW and AGW. Questioning you does not make claims that your assessments are wrong. I put forth a challenge that YOU, being all that make their assertions towards GW and AGW, to convince me that they are correct in their assertions. Why would you want to convince me? Why would I side with you just because you think I should? Convince me.

Should I have come in making claims about GW or AGW then, yes, that would be a bit dirty. I have made no assertions, one way or the other, concerning GW or AGW. Treat me as if I am a here to learn, as I am, and provide me with the knowledge of the evidence that supports your claims. That is the challenge I present for you all. Should you feel pressured then the pressure does not come from me. The pressure will come from your inability to support your own claims.

While my challenge was not originally directed to you, the challenge for you remains the same. Convince me that AGW is a sham. BTW, I do agree that carbon credits are not the answer to the problem.

The world is not warming this year? I cannot tell you if that is true or not but, there are anomalies, and it matters not if the world is warming, cooling or staying the same. Should the world be cooling by 2 degrees C this year then is it a trend or an anomaly? We know the world has recently experienced record warm years. Should there be no cooling years and only warming years to follow record warming years then we are in much worse shape than originally thought and all the models would have to be adjusted accordingly. Food for thought.
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Quoting RustyShackleford:

I didn't ask you those.

They were meant for Nea.

They were Spathy's questions also. All credit goes to him.

Yes, I know that spathy did originally ask the questions and I answered spathy. Since you had asked the questions again, and Post# 155 is not directed towards anyone, I answered the questions again. Nea will have his own answers, I feel certain but, was there an issue for you with my answers?

I am not trying to nick pick. I am looking for answers that will either prove or disprove AGW. You have not supplied me with any verifiable evidence that supports your belief that AGW is a sham. You ask questions that are intended to distract from a direct answer. Fine, but this does not bolster your case in your belief nor does it help me side with you in your belief.
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Member Since: January 27, 2009 Posts: 26 Comments: 1162
Quoting RustyShackleford:

Boy, that looks just like the graph Paul Hudson posted
on the BBC blog this past Feb. No Wind last winter,
record cold since 1652, would have been a disaster
if it were not for fossil fuels. Maybe more U235
should be used, highest energy density.
Member Since: January 27, 2009 Posts: 26 Comments: 1162

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I'm a professor at U Michigan and lead a course on climate change problem solving. These articles often come from and contribute to the course.

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